“Las Pulgas” in Hunger Mountain

Las Pulgas

by Erika L. Sánchez

Santiago Meza López, known as “el Pozolero”
in the Mexican news media, has confessed to
dissolving the remains of 300 people in acid while
working for a top drug trafficker.

—The New York Times

Even the trees here cringe— a heat
sticky like tamarind pulp.

The blindfolded bull is alone again,

walks in dusty circles around the block
and tries to lift the cloth
by blowing through his nose.

        Juárez: behind the Hollywood Club
        (Live Girls XXX),

        an elegant skeleton
        on the back of his silk shirt.

        A necklace of dried nipples
        lays on his chest.

        He lowers his head, eyelids
        tattooed with open eyes.
        In the name of the holy…

The town is named after fleas,
where the narcotraffickers have built

palaces bordered by concrete walls
embedded with broken Coca Colas.

Next door, Jovita washes shit

from the tripe. In the river she scrubs
until it’s bright as teeth,

until no excrement
is left in the honeycomb pattern.

Jovita’s son, the boy nicknamed Mal hecho,
badly made, runs along the river

chasing chickens, huaraches slapping
against cracked feet.

He knocks at every house,
collects slop

to feed the pigs. When he’s finished,
he climbs a ladder
to peer next door, careful

not to touch the broken glass, studies the macaws
spreading their wings, snickers
when they squawk ¡cabrón! ¡cabrón!

        In a Tijuana club a young woman straddles
        a man. He tugs her neon panties

        and she is not shaved, but he doesn’t care. Black
        lights flicker, illuminate his teeth,

        the acne pits on his cheeks. Everyone moving
        in slow motion, like an old filmstrip,

        like what is happening

        couldn’t possibly be true. There are mirrors
        at every angle, everyone multiplied
        by 6, 8, 10

        impossible to know
        whose body belongs to who. The woman
        turns around—

Mal hecho and other boys gather
in a burnt-yellow house

at the edge of town where they watch Lucha Libre
on a scrambled screen, cheer
as they steady the hanger antenna.

The walls are covered in newspaper—
headlines like Turismo Zapatista and
El ‘Pozolero’ pide disculpas.

          First, ass in face, then she lowers herself,
        lets him trace the spidery angel

        wings faded to green
             on her back. He drags his tongue
        along his teeth and remembers how easily

        a body dissolves in a vat
           of acid, how first, the flesh
        breaks away,

              how only the bones endure.


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